In 2004 FHWA issued direction that according to the Code of Federal Regulation,29 CFR 3.3 Part 5 Federal Contract Law Provisions electronic signatures are defined as a computer data compilation of any symbol or series of symbols executed, adopted, or authorized by an individual to be the legally binding equivalent of the individual's handwritten signature. Read FHWA Direction on Electronic Signatures A specific type of electronic signature is digital signatures. Digital signatures are defined as an electronic signature based upon cryptographic methods of originator authentication, computed by using a set of rules and a set of parameters such that the identity of the signer and the integrity of the data can be verified.
An entity such as a computer user can be assigned a unique digital identification. This digital identification is composed of a public key, a private key, and a digital certificate. As their names suggest, the public key should be shared amongst users who wish to carry out transactions amongst themselves, while the private key should be only known by its user. The digital certificate is used within a public-key infrastructure to allow a third-party certificate authority to verify that the digital certificate is correctly associated with that particular public key.
As public keys are shared amongst a group of users, someone’s public key can be used to encrypt a document and their respective private key can be used to decrypt that document. Confidentiality and data integrity of the sent document can be practically guaranteed assuming if the recipient is the only one who knows their private key. Similarly, someone’s private key can be ‘embedded’ into a document to constitute an electronic signature, and the identity of the electronic signature may be verified by using that user’s public key.
The Michigan Attorney General’s office, in concurrence of the Federal Highway Administration, issued a decision in 2011 authorizing the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to use and accept digital signatures.
There are many standards available for digital signatures, but MDOT currently authorizes the use of PKCS#12 files for digital identification. This cryptographic standard requires the signer to confirm their identity and intent to sign by requiring the user enter their unique password to sign. Starting in 2017 MDOT has selected a universal digital signature program for use by all parties/stakeholders on MDOT projects. This digital signature program, Cosign by DocuSign is available free of charge to all stakeholders involved on MDOT projects. In order to use this program to digitally sign a document, you must first have a digital identification (ID). This ID can be obtained from MDOT by following the instructions on the MDOT esign page at MDOT E-Sign Webpage
You may have multiple digital signature format styles configured for different purposes. It is even possible to configure a digital signature with an “Imported Graphic” containing an image of your professional license stamp.
It is important to note that for records retention and archiving purposes whenever digital signatures are used on documents, the electronic file (usually PDF) is considered the original legal document. Printouts of the document containing digital signatures are considered copies, so the signed electronic file must be retained and follow the relevant approved records retention procedures. MDOT will address the records storage issue through the requirement that all electronic documents must be placed in the project directory in the ProjectWise document management program. The E-construction wiki page contains more information regarding ProjectWise.
External users will follow the same instructions for obtaining a digital ID for use to digitally sign documents shown on the MDOT esign page at MDOT E-Sign Webpage
Please note as of Spring 2017 the MDOT 5600 form for digital signature validation is no longer required.